Always an adventure-seeker, Laura Beebe, 31, discovered the thrill of riding motorcycles in the Emerald Triangle two years ago. “I find that living life on the edge makes me feel alive,” Beebe says.
An avid surfer, Beebe found it hard to juggle her surf addiction with the demands of a full-time job. Riding gave her something she could do on her own time to get the blood flowing. “Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel more alive than riding through a rainstorm by yourself down Highway 101,” Beebe says.
Most days, Beebe rides a Sportster 1200, and she always takes the scenic route. Though she typically rides by herself, Beebe is a member of The Litas, an all-inclusive women’s motorcycle group. “It has been such an honor to be a part of something so unique and uplifting,” Beebe says. The Humboldt chapter of The Litas formed recently and often organizes ladies’ rides for its “motorcycle sisterhood” throughout the back roads of the Emerald Triangle.
“Humboldt County is such a beautiful place to ride a motorcycle—no traffic and endless back roads,” Beebe says. She’s also been charmed by how friendly folks are once she hops off her bike. “People love talking to you when you’re on a motorcycle,” she says. “You become more interesting, I guess!”
After two million people endured blackouts all over California this fall while thousands fled raging fires in Sonoma and Los Angeles, the season of light has a new meaning this year. More than ever, it’s a time to let go of consumer obligations and focus on the abundance of now. In the words of Pa Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, “All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”
While it’s easy to post an inspirational quote on Facebook, shirking consumerism is quite challenging in practice. In our globalized world, we are constantly exposed to a vast and bottomless marketplace. Come the holidays, companies are armed with unprecedented levels of data about our families, dreams, and weaknesses. While I’ll still be wrapping up a few consumable goodies this season (with upcycled paper!), I’m joining a growing majority in supporting local, sustainable businesses that craft small pleasures to spark joy.
Beyond shopping local, here are a few out-of-the-box ideas for experiential giving:
• Give the gift of self-care: Put a date on the calendar in January and invite friends over for a self-care night. Gather tea, mani-pedi supplies, and face masks—and actually make good on the promise to “see each other more.”
• Give the gift of childcare: The United States offers parents some of the paltriest childcare options in the world. Donating a few hours of childcare for a special night out or hosting monthly playdates is an unforgettable gift.
• Give the gift of good health: While the rec marketplace offers a wide variety of medicinal products, there’s nothing more rewarding than DIY gifts. Not a gardener? Shop at your licensed dispensary for cannabis-infused oils and tinctures to elevate your favorite recipes and homemade treats.
• Go for a hike: Taking an excursion into nature is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Give friends or family a “coupon” to cash in a hike—and quality time—with you in 2020.
I drink badly, and I have a lot of fun doing it (when I remember). That’s a lethal combination, and when you throw in my unfortunate discovery of White Claw—I can drink as many as I want and never feel full!—I flamed out with alcohol last winter.
On February 1, just as everyone else was celebrating the end of Dry January and just ahead of the Summer of the Claw, I swore off the seltzer. I figured I’d give myself one month (note: the year’s shortest) to reset. It wasn’t an easy 28 days, but when March 1 rolled around, I felt better than I’d felt in years. The chronic inflammation I had attributed to everything from gluten sensitivity to genetics was clearing. I saw the light, and there was no going back.
I thought sobriety would be lonely, that every Saturday night would be Netflix. I forgot the Brett Kavanaugh generation isn’t in charge of culture anymore (thank God).
Millennials and Gen Xers aren’t interested in swilling beer until they black out like we did in the ’80s. Sober is sexy—or, as hipsobriety.com sees it, “sobriety is the new black.”
On Instagram, there are influencers such as @stylishlysober, @thesoberglow, and the darker @fucking_sober and hashtags like #soberliving, #soberAF, and #sobercurious. Millie Gooch, who posts as @sobergirlsociety, encourages her nearly 60,000 followers with inspirational messages like “Mocks not cocks” and “Sobriety: a surefire way to improve your wellbeing and your Uber rating.”
Just like that, I’m a cool kid—with a huge range of new options on Saturday night (and beyond). I’m exploring elixirs made with raw cacao, maca, and horny goat weed at Tonic Herban Lounge just a few blocks from my home in downtown Boulder (I can walk home after imbibing, and it amuses me that I don’t need to). I can do yoga and shake it before dawn at a Daybreaker dance party (daybreaker.com) in Denver, one of 27 cities where the alcohol-free early morning rave pops up and invites people to “sweat, dance, and connect with ourselves in community.”
I’m surely not alone in this realization that life is better without booze. Worldwide, alcohol consumption fell by 1.6 percent last year. Led by young people, heavy-hitting countries like Russia, Canada, Japan, and the UK are seeing drinking rates as well as tolerance toward intoxication decline. An international survey found that about a third of people wanted to reduce their alcohol intake because of everything from sexual regret and embarrassment to physical health. A 2018 survey found that nearly 40 percent of global consumers want to drink less for health reasons.
In the US, CNBC reports, 52 percent of adults are trying to lower their alcohol intake, and underage drinking has steadily declined in the last 10 years. But only 21 percent of US adults in a CivicScience poll said they had any interest in drinking less or not at all, and most of those were 21- to 34-year-old, vegan-leaning flexitarians who practice yoga and consume cannabis daily. Women, especially those in their 30s and 40s, are drinking more than ever.
Booze still rules for most Americans, and “increased stress and demoralization” is actually pushing more women, minorities, and poor people to the bottle, according to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The national Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 17 million adults in the US are alcohol dependent, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in six binge drink—defined as drinking four or more drinks over two hours or until blood alcohol reaches 0.08—nearly once a week. For this White Claw guzzler, that definition is, well, sobering. I called that happy hour.
Giving up alcohol isn’t a hashtag for a lot of people. It’s not even a choice. As Sean Paul Mahoney writes on The Fix, a website about addiction and recovery, “I didn’t get sober to be cool. I just got sober to stop dying.”
A Little Bit Addicted?
“Sober curious” became a thing after HarperCollins released Ruby Warrington’s Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol in 2018. Warrington also has a podcast, runs Club SÖda NYC (featuring sober events like Kundalini Disco), and stages events (“Sober Curious: Choosing Sobriety for Focus, Presence, and Deep Connection” is February 14–16, 2020, at Massachusetts’ renowned wellness retreat center Kripalu). Her take is that a lot of Americans might not have a “problem” with alcohol but see it as getting in the way of their healthy lifestyles. “We eat well. We exercise. We meditate,” the press release for Sober Curious states. “So, why do we…still drink?”
Warrington wants to know why the only people who don’t drink are the ones who can’t and asks, “What if I am just…a little bit addicted?”
Call me old school, but a little bit addicted sounds a lot like a little bit pregnant. I worry that people who shouldn’t will take the advice of John Costa, who writes on twentytwowords.com that being sober curious is like being bi-curious—you don’t always hook up with people of the same sex, and you don’t have to cut out drinking forever. “Be sober half the time,” he writes, “and sauced the other half.” He’s joking, but those are dangerous words for me. That’s the life I was living: sober by day + tanked by night = balance.
Like all disorders (and pretty much everything in our culture), alcohol use runs on a spectrum. I was at the end that spent hours upon hours researching whether drinking while on this antibiotic would really make me projectile vomit and scoffed at friends as they struggled through Dry January, Dry July, Sober September, and Sober October. I wasn’t interested in giving up drinking for any reason or any amount of time, until I had to give it up for life.
Warrington, who sees reducing alcohol intake as another step in the wellness revolution, is at the other end of the spectrum—and she is aware of the difference between recovering from alcohol addiction and feeling better during yoga. I hope all of her followers are, too, because the last thing most drinkers need is a loophole.
I want to believe the trend Warrington is leading toward spirits-free activities and thoughtfulness about alcohol’s role in our culture—where every ritual, celebration, loss, entertainment, and even sporting event is cause for a drink—is not a trend but a movement. That we’ll look back at “mommyjuice” like we shake our heads at “mother’s little helper” pills from the ’60s and ’70s. The infrastructure to support sobriety is being built, and public opinion is turning. After centuries of going hard, America is getting woke, not wasted.
At the end of October, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Cannabis Open Houses Are Putting the High in High-End Real Estate.” The trend piece by author Katherine Clarke revealed the emerging discovery being used by developers and real-estate agents to move luxe properties in communities where recreational cannabis is not just legal but widely accepted.
It’s not unlike Los Angeles, where the rising industry is being hailed as an untapped source for buyers of high-priced homes. Throwing cannabis-related events—everything from elaborate seven-course pairing dinners with vapes in lieu of vino to live trimming classes—at multimillion-dollar properties on the market is garnering attention, building social buzz, and attracting buyers with money earned in, around, or on cannabis.
Not everyone sees the genius behind the trend, however. Clarke spoke to one agent in New York, where recreational cannabis is still a pipe dream and old tropes live on about munchie-motivated stoners. “When I think about cannabis, I don’t think about buying an expensive house,” says Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber. “It’s not a call for action as much as a call for Doritos.”
Someone should tell him friends don’t let friends make tired stoner jokes anymore. Especially ones implying cannabis consumers indulge their munchies with mindless consumption of unhealthy snacks when the reality is cannabis appeals to what The Economist dubs the “health-conscious inebriate,” citing a poll that 72 percent of American consumers thought cannabis was safer than alcohol. A 2018 The New Yorker headline declared cannabis to be a wellness industry in California where, in fact, a cannabinoid cousin of THC and CBD is starting to garner a whole lot of buzz. Instead of stimulating appetites, THCV may suppress those hunger pangs. When 2021 is declared the year of THCV, you can say you heard it here first.
Consumption and consumerism
Cannabis has moved so far beyond the clichés of yore. Tie-dye tees, bell-bottom cords, dancing bear patches, plastic bongs, Ziploc baggies: these tired trends are so out of style, some have already circled back and left again. (Looking at you, tie-dye.) The stoner kids of yesterday are the cannabis entrepreneurs, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs of today. And as they’ve aged, their tastes in cannabis aged with them, like the fine wine they can now afford. Cannabis consumers have money to burn.
And since we live in a capitalist society (an unjust one where people remain locked up for nonviolent drug charges in states that earn taxes off now-legal cannabis sales—that’s a whole layered story for a different day), money makes things happen. And what’s happening now is the emergence of a cannabis experience elevated to a higher level.
If you were paying attention to the pop-culture cues over the decades, you would have seen the high-end highs coming. When cannabis prohibition began its slow-and-steady march to its forthcoming end, it emerged from the black market with an established following of consumers—loyal cannabis consumers with no brand loyalty, because cannabis brands didn’t exist. Dealers did, growers did, activists, advocates, and believers, too. But the concept of cannabis brands was all brand-new.
With strict laws surrounding where the substance can be marketed, sold, advertised, distributed, and more, establishing customer loyalty in this industry is more difficult than it would seem on the surface. What differentiates one edible brand from another, one vape pen from the next is complicated to discern for those who aren’t well versed in the modern verbiage or its meaning. (Full-spectrum distillate, live resin, 2:1 ratios, oh my!)
This is where marketing and branding comes into play. And with marketing and branding comes the emergence of new market segments, including the ultra-luxury category. It is from within that category that future trends are likely to emerge. That’s how trends play out, as Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) explained to her new assistant in one iconic scene of The Devil Wears Prada. (If you haven’t seen it in a while, a quick refresher: “The color of the shirt you are wearing right now was determined years ago by high-end designers preparing their collections for fashion week runways.”)
Trickle-down trends are a hierarchical process whereby individuals with high status establish fashion trends, only to be imitated by lower-status individuals wearing cheaper versions of the same styles.
“It’s always been a thing,” says Karyn Wagner, CEO of Paradigm Cannabis Group, a women-owned extraction company specializing in pre-rolls and extracts made from small-batch sun-grown flower. “There’s always been those products that are better than others. But now, with adult use, we have to be more brand-conscious. With that, how do you distinguish yourself from someone else? Why is this better? What makes it better?”
Some like it haute
With any luxury good, consumers want the assurance of quality and efficacy, Wagner says. But you can never underestimate the prestige that comes with a high price tag. “The moneyed class always loves expensive items,” she says. “This normalizes it in their world. It brings in folks who didn’t normally have the desire. It made it OK in their class. Expensive breeds expensive things. You wouldn’t have expensive cannabis if you didn’t have people who wanted to buy expensive cannabis.”
Jenny Le Coq, president of Le Coq & Associates, a marketing and communications firm in San Francisco that represents Kikoko cannabis-infused botanical mints, points out that most people typically don’t seek out a cheap bottle of wine, but look for something fine, trustworthy, and familiar. They want to know the winery, its reputation, who recommends the vintage. “People are looking at wines today with a more discerning eye—how their grapes are grown, for example,” Le Coq says. “People are looking at cannabis in the same way: with a discerning eye.”
“Discerning” can add up to big money, for sure. Anecdotal stories abound in national media outlets, suggesting couples in Colorado will drop several bills on “cannagars” and other high-end party favors to celebrate weddings and anniversaries. At The High End, Barneys New York’s luxury cannabis lifestyle shop in Beverly Hills, shoppers can splurge on a $1,475 sterling silver bud grinder or a $950 water pipe. New York fashion brand Alice + Olivia partnered with luxury cannabis brand Kush Queen to debut a CBD wellness line earlier this year—bath bomb, body lotion, bubble bath with lavender. Alice + Olivia packaging features CEO Stacey Bendet’s signature “StaceFace” motif, with big sunglasses and a bold red lip. A timeless statement-making style that trendsetters of every era make their own while trendy types try to emulate the overall aesthetic. That’s just the way things work.
To be fair, luxury doesn’t have to mean $$$$. What it must indicate, however, is quality. “Luxury is an assigned label. It is typically assigned by marketers,” Le Coq says. “So, what do you want cannabis to be? As a consumer, how do you perceive luxury? The concept is really defined differently by every person. We want people to experience something that is luxurious. Not only the packaging is beautiful, the taste is beautiful, the place you are put into mentally is a nice, beautiful place.”
Research shows that women have shouldered the agriculture load—quite literally—throughout history, according to a study conducted at the University of Cambridge.
In the study, which was published in Science Advances in 2017, scientists found that existing research on agriculture and tools in prehistoric societies had only focused on male skeletons. So, they set out to study the bones of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age women. Their bones showed evidence that their lifestyles were largely defined by intense manual labor, suggesting that females farmed, while males hunted.
Prehistoric women, it seems, were instrumental in the development of agriculture, from tilling soil to grinding grain to harvesting crops.
Despite science and history, society views modern farming as male dominated. Today, the cannabis industry is changing the conversation.
As a true champion of counterculture, the cannabis industry is embracing its femininity—becoming one of the first billion-dollar markets to do so.
In celebration, we spoke to the badass lady farmers of the Emerald Triangle about life on the farm, and the challenges and opportunities of being a woman in the cannabis industry.
Ebb and Flow
Chiah Rodriques was born and raised on a “back-to-the-land hippy commune” in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley, where she still lives today. Rodriques is the cofounder of Mendocino Generations, a collective of compliant small farms—23 percent of which are owned and operated by women—and the marketplace director at Payne’s Distribution in Willits.
In addition to her full-time job, Rodriques and her husband own and operate River Txai Farm, and Arcanna Flowers, a collective of organic, sun-grown cannabis farmers. Their farm is home to their family, a 10,000-square-foot cultivation facility, and a 12,000-square-foot nursery, which provides two harvests per year. Typical days on the farm consist of watering, monitoring, and pest control, says Rodriques. They use a rainwater catchment system, so pumping and cleaning the farm’s pond is a constant chore.
In addition to cannabis, Rodriques and her husband grow companion plants throughout their property. “There’s a constant ebb and flow of what needs to be planted and what needs to be harvested,” she says.
Cost of Compliance
The daily farm chores only scratch the surface of the physicality and grit required to run a cannabis farm—especially in the era of compliance.
River Txai Farms is transitioning into the state’s track and trace system. Though the team previously used a similar system, there’s lots to learn—and increased overhead costs. “We have to hire somebody who does all of our track and trace, and accounting data entry,” explains Rodriques. “This is new. Farms used to never, ever write anything down. We were trained to hide our notebooks.”
Nowadays, cultivators must keep track of everything, including how much nutrients and water are used. “There are so many details a farmer has [to mind just] to keep their head above water,” she says. “We spend so much time with paperwork and computers that it’s hard to get out in the garden.”
Time management is also a big challenge for Brooklynn Willett, co-owner of Lagniappe Family Farms (pronounced Lan-yap), a 6,800-square-foot cannabis farm in Humboldt. Along with her partner and a friend, Willett grows organic vegetables, hops, and fruit trees alongside cannabis. “It’s old school Humboldt, where you get the family environment mixed in with the cannabis production,” says Willett.
Like Rodriques, Willett misses working with the plants. “I’ve taken on more of a CEO position, which means that I’m responsible for compliance,” she explains. “[With Proposition 64], paperwork, compliance, branding, marketing, and chasing down distribution for sales is a full-time job.” Still, it’s one she wouldn’t trade for anything: “No white picket fence for me!” says Willett.
For decades, cultivation (known colloquially as “growing”) was thought of as a male role, while women were relegated to trimming and leafing. As the founder of Emerald Employment, a staffing agency that connects workers with jobs at compliant cannabis facilities, Willett is noticing a paradigm shift.
“We’re finding that more females are getting into basic cultivation from start-to-finish,” she explains. “It’s opening up a lot more job opportunities to the people who were locked into the old way of doing things.”
Misogyny is a reality on the hill, and off it. It’s not uncommon to hear of women being strong-armed out of sales or partnerships, or cat-called by neighbors or farm hands.
Siobhan Danger Darwish is the co-owner of Blessed Coast Farms, the first licensed farm in Humboldt County. She explains that the issues affecting women in cannabis are the same nuances in every other industry.
“The difference is cannabis has the opportunity to raise the standards across the board,” says Darwish, who cofounded Grow Sisters with her sister, Sloan Reed, a collective of women in the cannabis industry. “With the attention and financial momentum emerging in our industry, now is the time to draw attention to these inequalities,” she explains.
Darwish also created the Sister, Grow Your Own and Know Your Farmer educational video series to empower plant and people—and spotlight inequities in the industry.
Building Safer Spaces
Shannon Byers, cofounder of Sisu Extracts, says the light of legality offers protection from some of the dangers and isolation of the black market. “It opens things up more, not only for women, but to everyone,” says Byers.
Byers speaks from personal experience. Prior to Sisu, she cofounded a 215 compliant brand. After 18 months building the business, she found herself forced out—and on the receiving end of threats. Rather than risk her freedom, Byers chose to wash her hands of the situation but suffered harassment and online trolling for two years.
“It was really pursuing real licensure and legitimacy at a state level after Prop 64 that enabled me to have a legal foot to stand on,” Byers explains.
Byers moved to Humboldt from Ohio in 2013 to study holistic medicine at the renowned Dandelion Herbal Center. There, she established strong relationships with women herbalists who were also cannabis cultivators. “Being able to go to facilities that were run or managed by these women made it safe for me to [visit alone],” Byers explains. “I was able to obfuscate a lot of dangers that I’ve heard other women encounter by being completely off the grid.”
Byers was inspired by how other female farmers operated. “They propagated a culture of respect for the plant, respect for the earth, and respect for their employees,” she says.
Byers strives to do the same at Sisu, bringing women into the fold and “treating our community of employees as close to family as possible by giving them a real stake in the game,” via employee ownership plans. Sisu’s supply chain is run entirely by women who help coordinate pick-up and production schedules, run machines, and distribute manufactured goods.
“I respect the hell out of everyone fighting the good fight of legalization,” says Byers. “But I really feel impassioned when I get to collaborate alongside other women in the industry.”
A Strong Intuition for Things That Grow
“Cannabis is a female plant,” says Willett. “Women have a strong intuition for things that grow. They have a gentle hand and a nurturing spirit. There’s nothing more beautiful than watching women working with this female plant that heals.”
Rodriques believes women bring unparalleled creativity, resilience, and beauty to the cannabis industry, whether it’s in the garden or with their brands. Plus, she adds, “Women get shit done!”
Growing up in the industry, Rodriques and Darwish recognize the intrinsic role of women in its past, present, and future. “Women were the cultivators, the product makers, the kitchen witches, and the ones to sell the products. That was the cannabis movement,” says Darwish. Now more than ever, women have the opportunity to lead the industry, she adds. “Where a man’s focus might be to get the job done, a woman is more likely to get to the heart of the job,” says Darwish. “We’re more likely to put the delicate touches into the products by giving love and time to the plant or the job.”
Like the women who came before, the females of cannabis are pioneers, nurturing human wellness—and their own inherent skill sets—along the way.
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